Older Titles – Are They Worth Seeking Out?

[Editor’s Note: Zack Kephart from The Musical Divide has returned, and he’s got some thoughts about playing past games in the present day! If you’d like to read more from Zack, check out TMD, where he and Andy post their thoughts about country songs and albums from the past and present. Take it away, Zack!]

With the recent(ish) announcement of Nintendo closing its 3DS and Wii U eShops, many players – myself included – have scrambled these past few weeks to complete their collections before it’s too late.

Now, my overall opinion on Nintendo’s decision to do so has left me somewhere in the middle. On one hand, this was inevitable, and while I’d argue it’s coming a little too soon for the 3DS compared to the Wii U, I get why they’re putting decade-old consoles to bed. On the other hand, without any plans to preserve these classic titles, it leaves an entire library of stellar games out in the wasteland. Sure, the Wii U has mostly had its best games ported over to or remade for the Switch (though what it offers through its own eShop and Virtual Console is honestly better than what the Switch offers, in my opinion), but the 3DS is an altogether different animal. It’s the only current way to play its own library of games as well as DS ones, and while I can understand why it might be difficult to rework games from unique systems like them, it certainly can’t be impossible.

Now, the two counterpoints to this thus far are that, for one, players have until March 2023 to continue using the eShops to buy and download games, but that’s also kind of misleading; the window of opportunity is much smaller than some people realize. And then, the other one: “You knew this was coming, so why didn’t you just get them before when you could?”

Beyond a possible (and valid) explanation of “because they cost money,” this argument also kind of misses the point. For one, with the ways things stand right now, this leaves the next generation of gamers without ways to experience an entire console’s library. Today we have ways to experience NES, SNES, and N64 titles, among select others, but speaking as someone who didn’t grow up with a GameCube, I’ve always felt I’ve been missing out on those games; Nintendo wants you to remember those older titles, but they don’t really care much if you have a way to play them, it seems. Also, given the hassle of Nintendo’s entire online system for its retro library on the Switch (coming from someone who lives in a remote location with spotty-to-no Internet, at best), I have to say I much prefer the “grab what you want and go” download model of the Virtual Console far more, but also know that that’s an unpopular opinion (I’ll still miss it). But there’s also another reason why I think it’s important to keep legacies alive for future generations, and while it’s a more complex discussion, I think it’s worth having.

In the past few weeks and months alone I’ve picked up 3DS titles like Metroid: Samus Returns, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, among others, and am happy to say I’ve been having a blast with them … and that I’m also sad I missed out on them all those years ago. Why didn’t I pick them up or play them before? Well, in short, I had never experienced these series prior to just a few short months ago, and only bought them all because I tried out their successors on the Switch over the holiday season (Metroid Dread, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and Luigi’s Mansion 3, respectively, of course).

Completing these games had me wondering about what I had been missing before, so I started hunting down old 3DS games even before the panic set in. But as that window of opportunity shrinks a little more every day and prices for physical games skyrocket (because physical is just how I roll, baby), it’s left me wondering if that search is worth it anymore. I’ve recently been looking to expand my tastes by experiencing series beyond the typical Zelda, Mario, and Pokémon ones (hence why the old mainstreamer in me bought those games above), but am still on the fence about other ones, like Fire Emblem and Monster Hunter. I knew I’d probably like those aforementioned 3DS titles I had picked up because I had experienced their successors on the Switch and didn’t quite have that time crunch to worry about. But now that I do, it’s left me in a weird predicament of whether I should keep expanding the ol’ 3DS library or just focus on the latest gems for the Switch.

Now, the obvious fact with the Switch is that, at the very least, you’re going to get a more powerful game. Maybe not an outright better game, but certainly a better looking and more powerful one. And yet, I see those fans who say that Fire Emblem: Awakening is better than Three Houses, or that Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate is definitely worth seeking out. And I also remember that, while I love the latest Metroid, Donkey Kong, and green Mario titles for the Switch, I also love the experiences I’ve had with their 3DS predecessors. No, they certainly aren’t quite as smooth in the graphics department or in their playability factor, but they’re still, you know, fun – and unique experiences, at that. I can’t use the Spider Ball upgrade in Dread like I can in Samus: Returns, and that makes me kind of sad. I like that Donkey Kong Country Returns has more worlds to explore, even if I prefer Tropical Freeze more as an overall experience. And I like the multiple locales of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon just as well as the multi-layered hotel seen in its successor title, even if said successor title is utterly gorgeous.

Now, recommending these titles is no problem; the problem is whether or not it’s worth it to fork over the price to download them from the eShop – or, for the more adventurous, find them physically on places like Amazon or eBay – or just try out the latest titles on the Switch that have likely ironed out the kinks and growing pains of past entries. And in truth, I can’t answer that for you; I can barely answer it for myself. All I can say is that, if you’re on the fence about expanding your library, I would say to do it while you still can, if you’re even remotely curious. Those older games might not have the slick polish of today’s entries, but they’re valid experiences still worth having that you’ll undoubtedly enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Older Titles – Are They Worth Seeking Out?

  1. Great read, Zack!

    I understand everything is a business and Nintendo is ultimately under no obligation to keep the 3DS and Wii U shops open when they’re almost certainly being used by very few people, but I can’t help but feel it would have been awesome for them to do so in the interest of preservation and as an act of goodwill. It’s not exactly as if Nintendo is struggling financially and has no choice but to pull the plug. I understand there are other factors playing into the decision as well – concerns about possible security vulnerabilities present in the outdated 3DS and Wii U digital infrastructures have been raised – but ultimately, Nintendo needs to find a way to ensure that the rich libraries of these consoles remain accessible. If they don’t, they can’t be surprised when people resort to “other” means to play these games.

    To be honest, and not to be “that guy”, but it’s stuff like this that is why the PC has long been where I buy any game that isn’t exclusive to consoles. The PC as a platform never “ends” the way consoles do, which allows for vastly greater backwards compatibility. Every game I’ve ever purchased going back to the mid-2000s is as accessible as ever in my Steam account. Granted, pre-2010ish games might require a bit of tinkering (I had to spend about twenty minutes figuring out how to set up my Xbox controller to work properly with the original Assassin’s Creed last year), but that’s usually about it. When I buy a digital game on PC, it more or less feels permanent, whereas with consoles I feel it’s a fifty-fifty proposition if I’m still going to have access to that game in five years.

    Thankfully, consoles finally seem to have started taking backwards compatibility seriously. Virtually all Playstation 4 and Xbox One games can be played on the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series consoles respectively, and hopefully they’ll eventually be carried over to their successors as well, creating a permanent library that moves forward with you across devices. We can only hope Nintendo follows suit with whatever comes after the Switch. As digital becomes the preeminent way games are sold and distributed, for better or worse, game companies have to find a way to reassure customers that their purchases will be honored far into the future. I’m optimistic that the 3DS/Wii U/PS3/Vita store closures will prove to be this weird, one-off early era when game companies hadn’t yet fully figured out digital storefronts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Andy!

      You hit the nail on the head. I, too, wish Nintendo would keep it open as a gesture of good faith, but like you said, we don’t really know the costs of maintaining this sort of thing. It just sucks either way. Wii U’s best games are already on the Switch; there’s just no easy way to transfer 3DS games. The best you can maybe do is remaster them to fit onto a modern handheld (I’m thinking of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl as a recent example), but to do that for even the best of the best within the 3DS (and DS) family(ies)? Probably never going to happen.

      Regarding your last point, I hope you’re right. It’s weird to think that the idea of a digital storefront for games is still a relatively new idea, but yeah … the rules are constantly being written and re-written as we speak. So as for what’s ahead, who knows? It will be interesting to see where it all leads.

      Thanks for again for reading! (And to Kyle for hosting another post of mine!)

      Liked by 2 people

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